Céntrico is a recently opened Mexican breakfast, lunch and cocktail spot on the ground floor of the historic Hotel San Carlos. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call this a family affair. Two of Céntrico’s owners – Pete Salaz and Edson Madrigal – also own Bar Smith and Cafe Monarch. Jessica Madrigal (Edson’s wife) and Carmen Mora own shares in Céntrico, as well. The chef, Miguel Beltran, is related to the Madrigals. Caught up yet? No matter, really, since you’ll feel like family once you are here.
Céntrico is a charmingly small spot, with a mix of high tops and regular tables, along with outdoor seating on a street-level patio. I’m never one to miss a patio, and this is a good one. Céntrico has arguably the most urban and citified patio in town, since you’re across from the light rail, the Chase building and a busy boutique hotel. One recent visit for me was a stop on a tour of haunted hotels (who knew Phoenix has more than one). Although Céntrico spends most of its time as a breakfast and lunch spot, you’ll find small plates, drinks, live music and Pete – a well-respected local DJ – providing the soundtrack on Friday and Saturday nights.
Breakfast is served seven days a week, with tasty classics like Chiliquiles ($8.95), served with either red or green sauce. Add a perfectly cooked egg ($2) atop the layers of goodness. For an extra $4, add the well-prepared achiote-grilled chicken breast. We also enjoyed the Migas ($8.95), a kicky mix of chips, chorizo and scrambled eggs served with avocado and queso Oaxaca. I loved the Chile Verde Omelette ($9.50), with succulent pork (more on that later), green chiles and excellent tomatillo salsa.
We loved the Queso Fundido ($9.95), a cheesy mound of Mexican cheeses melted into a pan. Spring for the chorizo upgrade ($2) and use the tasty warm tortillas to scoop it up. I’m also a fan of the Céntrico Chop Salad ($10), which comes loaded with crispy chorizo, cucumber, pinto beans, slightly sweet and crunchy dried corn and a buttermilk dressing creamy enough to round out the dish. Normally I’d suggest a protein upgrade, but I don’t think this salad needs it.
Now about that succulent pork: you’ll find the Chile Verde ($9.95) in the appetizer section. To be fair, this is probably because the portion isn’t an entree-sized free-for-all. But for me it was more than enough for dinner. Served alongside were three hot and freshly grilled tortillas. This stew-like dish is a flavorful mix of soulful broth, loaded with onions, tons of garlic and, of course, green chiles, with enough kick to wake you up but not knock you over. Hunks of meltingly tender pork and a smattering of grated cheese round out the mix. It would not be exaggerating to say I almost drank the broth after making the pork disappear – it’s that good.
We also enjoyed the Double Bacon Cheeseburger ($13). With beef ground especially for Céntrico, this fresh, meaty monstrosity arrives cloaked in melted colby longhorn, a mild orange and white cheese I don’t recall seeing on any burger around town, and topped with jalapeño bacon. Someone cared about making this, and you can taste it. You’ll also enjoy the excellent fries, and for $2 more you can add a salad. Consider doubling up on the chipotle mayo that comes with the burger. It’s fantastic for french fry dipping.
And, of course, there are tacos. All of Céntrico’s tacos are served on freshly grilled and well-made tortillas. I envision someone’s Nana coming in during breakfast and making a giant stash, because it certainly tastes like that’s what’s happening. Served four to an order, my favorites were the Tacos de Tinga ($10), a tingle-inducing chicken taco served with a fantastic poblano crema. I also enjoyed the Asada ($10), a skirt steak taco with nopalitos (cactus) and guacamole. With the steak well-cooked so the edges are slightly crisped, I found myself looking for more bits of carne asada for noshing. I would love some of this on the queso fundido in addition to the chorizo.
Céntrico prides itself on the extensive mezcal and tequila menu. What impressed me was the gorgeous tray of drink fixings you’ll see near the bar – a colorful array of roasted fruit ready to be served in the drink of your choice or any of the house cocktails. Ask for a slice of roasted lemon in your drink, or better yet, ask your server for input. We found service to be attentive and sweet, sort of like eating at your aunt or uncle’s house, which makes sense given the family of families involved in running the place.
Céntrico is open seven days a week, which is no small feat for a new spot. But they’ve chosen a smart path, beginning with breakfast, lunch and small plates for weekend nights. It’s great to see a place that has clearly paid attention to detail in crafting and creating the menu and drink accoutrements. They’ve done their homework – great food, music, excellent craft cocktails and one of the largest selections of mezcals in town. While Hotel San Carlos has been a part of the history of Phoenix, I’d like to think that Céntrico will have a place in its future.
Hotel San Carlos
202 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
Monday to Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Friday 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Sunday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.